Daily Digest: Taxes and businesses

Good morning, and welcome to Monday and the start of the start of a new work week. Let’s check the Digest.

1. The tax bill that Republicans in Congress plan to send to President Trump for his signature this week will have pluses and minuses for Minnesotans. Businesses get the biggest breaks. Republican leaders argue the tax cuts will spur job growth. A national survey of 123 CEOs found the vast majority believe the tax package will increase investment and hiring. That should hold true in Minnesota, said Charlie Weaver, executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, whose members include more than 100 top executives from the state’s largest employers. But those big Minnesota-based companies haven’t said much, if anything, about what they’d do with tax savings. They certainly have options that would put money in the pockets of investors instead. And soaring stock prices indicate investors are betting corporate windfalls will be heading their way. “The indications that we’re getting and what we’re seeing … at least in the near term, it’s likely to be more share buybacks, higher dividends,” said Glenn Johnson, a senior vice president at the Mairs and Power investment firm in St. Paul. (MPR News)

2. Employees are complaining about dysfunction and disarray at the state agency responsible for protecting vulnerable adults at senior care facilities.In interviews with the Star Tribune, employees described an office so overwhelmed by backlogged cases that workers dumped dozens of maltreatment complaints into recycling bins without reading them. Others said unread complaint forms piled up into stacks 2 feet high and went unexamined for months. At one point, employees said, they were ordered to stop making phone calls to elderly victims and other individuals who reported nursing home abuse because it was too time-consuming. But that only angered families, hindered investigations and subverted office morale, they said. (Star Tribune)

3. The race is on to define soon-to-be U.S. Sen. Tina Smith. Despite years circulating through executive suites and high-stakes legislative negotiations, Smith is not well-known to the public — a blank canvas on which Republicans will happily draw an unflattering portrait. “It’s another political insider who will raise taxes on middle-class families,” said John Rouleau, executive director of the Republican-aligned Minnesota Jobs Coalition. As Republicans mount their critique of Smith, the party must also recruit its own candidate to run against her — and it could very well be someone who boasts the same type of extensive political connections. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s name has been at the top of most lists, though he has been publicly noncommittal. With his own numerous runs for office, ties to GOP power brokers and recent work as a D.C. lobbyist, Pawlenty would not exactly project outsider appeal. DFLers have been quick to defend Smith, who took questions at the announcement but was not granting interviews at the end of last week. (Star Tribune)

4. The Pioneer Press took a look back at the 1898 case Minnesota Senate Republican point to as a ruling confirming that Sen. Michelle Fischbach can be both a state senator and lieutenant governor. The original case had nothing to do with anything we’re talking about today. It was a railroad case out of Aitkin County. Three parcels owned by the St. Paul & Duluth Railroad, the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Great Northern Railroad owned by James J. Hill — who was alive and well and living in St. Paul at the time. The railroads were appealing county taxes levied on these parcels in 1897, based on a law passed in 1895. (Pioneer Press)

5. If Minnesota were a dinner party, religion and politics would make the seating arrangements difficult. The recent Ground Level survey conducted by MPR News and the APM Research Lab asked 1,654 Minnesotans about their faith practice and their politics. The finding was clear and massive: Though there are religious and nonreligious people in both major parties, the more often a Minnesotan attends worship, the more likely he or she is to be a Republican. Those who attend worship less frequently or not at all, in contrast, are much more likely to be Democrats. That split between religious Republicans (as measured by attendance at a place of worship) and more secular Democrats tends to make divisive social issues — say, gay marriage or abortion — seem all the more intractable. As members of a congregation reinforce and absorb each other’s points of view, those who feel differently tend to pull away. (MPR News)

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